— The Onion (@TheOnion) July 22, 2014
A reader scratches her head:
What I’m saying is that it is not self-evident that an abortion has the same moral weight as a root canal. They may be equally legal, but they are not self-evidently equally moral. It is reasonable to treat it differently as a medical procedure for those reasons alone.
As others have repeatedly pointed out to you, no one advancing “admitting privilege” laws claims they’re doing so because of the “moral weight” of abortion. They say it’s about health and safety. Why is it wrong to take action to expose the falseness of this position? If it’s valid to “treat [abortion] differently as a medical procedure” because of its moral weight, then the advocates of these laws should stand on that terra firma.
It’s clearly a way to provide some sort of speed bump before human life is taken. Yes, you can argue that it’s disingenuous in its aims. And I take that point. But the proposed remedy is also a little disingenuous – dentists are not going to be forced to recite the same precautions that an abortionist does. The proposal is primarily a rhetorical point to argue that these delaying procedures for abortions should be removed entirely. What I objected to – and all this sturm and drang comes from two sentences – was the assumption that abortion should never be treated as different from other medical procedures. And although I can full sympathize with my readers’ frustration and anger, I find the easy and glib equation of abortion with a visit to the dentist – which is the rhetorical force of Marcotte’s argument – the kind of absolutist position I’d rather avoid. And look: we didn’t have to air the idea at all. But we did so fully, with a caveat from me so that readers would not infer that I have no moral qualms about abortion, when I very much do. Another reader nods:
How does one read this: “Want to force abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical center standards and abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges? Well, dentists will have to meet the same standards before they can drill a tooth,” and come up with a comment like yours without deliberate obtuseness? What does making abortion providers having to meet higher medical requirements have to do with a moral issue regarding abortion?
Then you go on to defend your comment with this:
“I was objecting to the breezy dismissal of any moral conundrum at all.” Which would be a reasonable thing to object to except that there was no such breezy dismissal. Rather, it was a discussion about specific laws that force people to present factually incorrect information and requiring doctors to meet higher medical standards if they are performing abortions than other doctors providing equally complex medical procedures.
But the point is not the complexity of the procedures, but their very nature. Abortions end human life. If a dentist ended a human life, he’d be disbarred. Another argues:
It is one thing to argue morally that abortion is murder and fight the case that therefore Roe (and Casey) should be overturned. It is another to publicly claim a different rationale and use that rationale to make abortion impossible because you cannot make it illegal.
Who is making abortion impossible? And it is not necessary to believe that abortion is “murder” to believe it is the taking of human life. Meanwhile, another considers the response to the reader who shared her story of ending a pregnancy:
Sometimes I wonder if you read the reader’s comment before you respond when you talk about abortion. You have comfortably settled into your “I think abortions before 20 weeks should be safe, legal, and rare.” But then, you defend yourself against readers who point out what that means in real lives and say, “But taking my HIV meds does not end human life, something that abortion as a medical procedure almost uniquely does.” Your reader’s entire story was about a specific situation, with a pregnancy which could not come to term (or would not last long if it did), and the entire informed consent script did not apply to her situation. As I read that, you value a dying fetus more than a grown woman, her health and her family.
Sigh. The Dish has long addressed the agonizing and highly sympathetic situations of women facing late-term abortions, namely the long-running “It’s So Personal” series. But, look, in a spirited debate, I understand I can sometimes come off as dismissive of the genuine concerns of my readers, and I was too curt in my response to my reader’s anguished email. I apologize for that. I do not apologize for my belief that that there is a genuine moral issue with abortion – the fate of human life – that a fair argument would acknowledge rather than dismiss as self-evidently untrue.